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SPOTLIGHT: Music City Mystique

What can I say? They did it again. Amazing notes, great performances from the members, and a truly believable character that fuels the whole show. The front ensemble started their lot with a gorgeously powerful piece called “Land”, a marimba solo arranged by their center Angelo Outlaw. MCM has arguably been the best front ensemble in not just WGI, but in the whole marching pageantry idiom. There is a 32nd-16th note herta phrase where the full ensemble adds in as the keyboards harmonize the rhythmic passage. I don’t think it is possible for MCM to musically disappoint! Nu Tribe was awesome, check out the video I took from the WGI Finals lot in Dayton:

Special Contributor — Peter @ The Percussion LAB


One of the most innovative ways lights were used as the new rule was passed.  The whole program was paced very well and maximized their moments with visual and music integration to the extreme!  The snare line was amazing with very fast singles to diddle patterns to paradiddle variations.  Great clarity and quality of sound from the whole ensemble.

The front had some amazing moments with inner 2 mallet runs and ritardando sections that you could drive a semi truck through.  Great split parts in the marimbas and beautiful writing by Andrew Markworth.  Andrew provided a great vehicle for the front ensemble to show off it’s touch and musicianship.

So how does the show look with the lights out? Well, you can’t turn down the lights in the field house, but you can record a rehearsal at dusk:

Special Contributor — Peter @ The Percussion LAB

DCI Broken Arrow 2011 Review

Broken Arrow, OK – There were so many good corps at the Broken Arrow show this year that I had to come to the realization that it was going to be impossible to get them all. Keep in mind the Broken Arrow High School campus is about the size of a small college and there are tons of places to spread out. True, I could have run around to each drumline and got two or three minutes of random footage (and you can find all of it on YouTube), instead I decided to focus on getting prime spots for a few groups before it got dark and get as much quality footage as possible of each one.

So here’s the video footage I got and my take on each corp:


The first group I ran into and one of the drumlines I wanted to see, was the Colts. I had heard some good things about the Colts drumline and they didn’t disappoint. Rolls were clean between the snares and tenors, the snare drums had a nice organic sound, and they players had a level of maturity in their approach to the drum that produced a nice full bodied snare sound. The bass line had some nice notes and musical parts in the book that required a skillful approach. They were accurate in their unisons at all playing levels and even had some extremely exposed unisons that they pulled off effortlessly. You could tell this was a strong bass line and that proved true when they recently won I&E.


Beautiful drums, aggressive playing, and fast rolls are what personify the 2011 Glassmen drumline. Their style seems to be polar opposite of the Bluecoats, more along the lines of Cadets and Crown…a strong front grip on the fulcrum at the index finger. It does thin out the sound a little, but when you hear the stuff they are playing and the tempo at which it is played, you will understand the technique approach.

All the low heights come out clean and controlled, but once it gets past a “level 9″ the accuracy level in the snares start to waver a little and I saw a few snares extend beyond the vertical plane. That may very well be their approach but then again not all of them are doing it. I expect to see them move up if they can control the potential over hype.

The Cavaliers

The Cavaliers are starting to sound really good mid-season. The paradiddle-diddle sound quality from the snares is some of the best I’ve seen this Summer. The bass drums sound great (I’m biased), and the open tone really helps to separate the muffled sections. There are so many cool things happening in this Mike McIntosh drum book that it deserves multiple listens.


I started to record the Bluecoats drumline, but we ran out of daylight. There was no light source within 100 yards so it was fairly dark. I was able to snap a few pictures so check those out in the gallery below. As for playing I thought they would have been farther along since I last saw them in June. I would describe the performance as “uncharacteristic” of what I’ve come to expect of the Bluecoats but then again a couple of things could have contributed to the lackluster lot: a lot of the corps were putting in modifications at this point in the season, it was very hot, or it could have just been a bad warmup – it happens.

DCI Ft. Worth Review

Saginaw High School - host of DCI Ft. Worth

Saginaw, TX – As a result of the DCI G8 agreement, the first show of the year had the 2010 Top 8 coming to the Fort Worth area in a unprecedented first show lineup. With thunderstorms looming in the distance, it gave a dramatic surrounding for a dramatic opening event. Here is a rundown of how each group looked at their first performance.

Blue Stars

Due to traffic, we were not able to see much of the Blue Stars (less than three minutes), but hopefully plan to get footage of them at a later show.

Santa Clara Vanguard

Clearly, people wanted to see the efforts of Paul Rennick at SCV. Many questions were laid to rest when the front ensemble pulled up in front of the drumline and before they played any notes as an ensemble, they played through their entire show, top to bottom, and it was extremely clean for June 18th. It was obvious that Rennick was making a strong statement about what he expected out of this group. I would not call this “Finals clean” but it was not far off.

The Cadets

Six bass drums….not what you typically see from drum corps. But after seeing their body movement and how it related to the show concept, it was clear why they had six bass drums as they split the drumline in half – half angels, half demons.

The snare sound was a little thin, but I expect it will fill out once the hands have a few weeks on them. They did body movement while playing show excerpts and they are able to translate their role in the show through their approach to the drum during tacet moments which is a very cool idea.

Phantom Regiment

What to make of Phantom after Paul Rennick had left? Seeing that most of the vets followed him to SCV, this was essentially a restart for the program and the differences are evident. The notes are there, just not the hands….yet. It is a different style of book from what we have gotten use to hearing from the Rennick years, and the new sound will take a little to get use to. I look for them to make a late surge in July once they get a handle on the drum book.

Carolina Crown

Some comments have been made about the drum color this year. If you look at the drums up close and on an individual basis, it’s not something I would pick. But pull back about twenty yards and look at the drumline as a whole and it makes sense. I’m not a complete fan, but I like it and how it works with the show.

How do they sound? Pretty strong for first show warm up. I only got to hear exercises as they overlapped with the Bluecoats warm up. All the sub sections sounded strong with no audible weaknesses. The snareline had some minor technique differences but that’s typical this early in the season.


Ten snares, one vet on tenors, a strong bass line, and an extremely hard drum book are the elements that make up the 2011 Bluecoats. Yes, there were some minor fuzzes here and there, but in a book this hard I can see why. They were right behind SCV in cleanliness but took the cake for difficulty (at least in the drumline parts)

The Cavaliers

The Cavaliers have the same situation as the Bluecoats – new members: four new snares, a couple of basses and a few on tenors. That doesn’t stop them from having one of the most musical drum books around. This is a show about tricks and showmanship so there are tons of split parts, wild dynamics and lots of visuals. Coming over late from the Bluecoats lot, I didn’t get the best angle and therefore some of the notes sound dirty when they are not. I am putting this up to show the warm up, but I would recommend checking out the footage I took of their four rehearsal days right before this show.

Blue Devils

Last but not least, were the Blue Devils. Unfortunately, darkness had set in and they picked a location away from the lights so the video portion did not turn out. From what I heard: lots of fast rolls, space between hard passages, and very technical from all subsections. It has a very airy feel to it as I’m sure it makes complete sense with the horns, but is hard to read when it stands by itself. Whereas the Santa Clara Vanguard book and the Bluecoats book could almost stand on their own as WGI scores. Here is what we have from the Live stream we did that night:

Video streaming by Ustream

NAMM Review: Evans Drumheads

First shown at PASIC in November, Evans Drumheads displayed their new Hybrid-S Marching Snare Batter head and the new System Blue Marching Tenor Heads at The NAMM Show held in Anaheim, California this past weekend (January 13-16).

Evans_Hybrid-S.jpgInspired by the successful Evans Hybrid batter series, the new Hybrid-S (Hybrid-Soft) features two unique fibers that blend together to offer a softer feel. The new head produces a dark and warm tone while providing a crisp snare response – a sound popular with many top drumlines. The softer feel and “give” produces a large sound while still retaining the durability associated with the Evans Hybrid product line.

The new System Blue tenor heads were created in conjunction with the Blue Devils percussion staff. The heads feature a 2-ply design with a 7mil top-ply and a 7.5mil bottom-ply. A new dampening technique called Sound Shaping Technology targets unwanted overtones while enhancing the attack, projection, and note definition needed in today’s technical drum books. An added bonus to the dampening pattern on each head, is the visual reference to proper playing zones for each drum.


“Pairing up with the Blue Devils and countless other top marching corps has allowed us unrestricted resources when designing new marching heads,”

states Evans Educations Manager, Jim Bailey.

“The Hybrid-S Snare Batter Heads and System Blue Tenor heads have been corps tested and player approved, and we‟re thrilled about what these new heads are going to do for drum corps and marching bands worldwide.”

Both are available now at your local music retailer or online store.

For more information on Evans Drumheads, please visit